Italy – Part 3: When in Rome…

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Read Part 1

Read Part 2

After filling up with watermelon gelato (the best flavour of all time), Doran and I sped off to Pisa. Our research indicated that Pisa didn’t have much else to see other than it’s famous tower, so we decided to put aside three hours of our journey between La Spezia and Florence to see it.

So here it is, being chummy with Doran.

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Obviously doing the hands up pose was too cliche. Therefore, I instructed Doran to do this. Genius work, if I do say so my-self.

After spending 1 hour taking hilarious pictures of other people doing the “hands up” pose with the tower, Doran and I got bored. There was nothing else to do. I even helped an elderly Italian lady walk to a gelato store. True story. We walked by her on the way to the train station and she just grab my arm and told me to walk with her.

Then we were off to Florence.

This place is amazing. It’s such a different vibe from all the places we’ve been to in Italy. Its got a small town feeling but large city infrastructure (including terrible public transportation… they changed bus routes on us without a map showing where the changes were… we literally ended up staying on a bus for the WHOLE loop). But I digress. This place is beautiful.

Our favourite vegetarian restaurant in Italy is in Florence. Brac is half bookstore and half vegetarian restaurant. The food was amazing and after eating so much gelato and pasta, it was a nice change of pace for us.

Other than being such a scenic place (even DNCE enjoyed the views… their security guard didn’t even let me take a picture with them. He lied by telling me to wait one second only to find Joe Jonas walking away toward their car… cock blocked by security…), Florence houses the original statue of David.

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Look at how perfect this statue is. I was blown away by how huge it was! (That what she said…)

Similar to Venice, there are so many small lane ways and alleys to explore. There is always something cool to see or eat.

After two short days in Florence, it was time to head to Rome. I had high expectations of this city and it didn’t disappoint. There is so much history in Rome, I can’t even understand how buildings that we can touch and walk into are thousands of years old. Everywhere you turn something has been hanging around for many years. It’s a shame that when Christianity rolled in, many pieces got destroyed or defaced.

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Why cut off all the heads?!?! I mean… Come on!!!

Our first major tourist thing was a bike tour around Rome. This is a great way to get all the top tourist spots out of the way first, which then allowed us to enjoy all the other things Rome had to offer.

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One memorable moment in Rome was when Doran and I watched Carmen at the Baths of Caracalla. It was quite special to see a classic opera under the night sky in an area built around 212 AD.

Another memorable moment while we were in Rome was a visit Vatican City. I found the option to have breakfast at the Vatican Museum during my research and took the opportunity to get early bird access so that Doran and I could see the Sistine Chapel with the least amount of people. We had to be there at 7am, but it was totally worth it. We basically had the whole museum to ourselves for the first hour!

It even turned out that His Holiness, Pope Francis, was there that day giving his blessings. So, I basically had breakfast with the Pope.

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He’s up on the steps. Trust me, he’s there.

As for the food in Rome? It didn’t disappoint. We found an awesome truffle place that sold truffle dishes (black and white) for under 28 Euros! Osteria Barberini and a tiny gem tucked away in one of Rome’s many little roads. Definitely make a reservation if you plan to go.

 

And THAT was our trip to Italy. This was just the tip of the iceberg. I mean, how amazing was this adventure to a whole new country we never been before! We would definitely return to Italy in the future.

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I can’t believe I actually flew completely around the world this trip!!!

“Live” Blogging: My First Degustation Experience

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So Doran made a reservation for his friend and I at Vue de Monde, one of Melbourne’s finest fine dining restaurants in the city. It was quite the experience and I shall try to blog our time there to the best of my abilities. I hope you enjoy this as much as we did.

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6:25pm: We are 10 mins late for our reservation. (This is important because through out the week before, Vue de Monde called to confirm that we’ll be there at least 5 times. Apparently you are charged a lot of money to cancel or no show). Luckily Doran was on time and told the concierge that we were on our way.

6:26pm: We are told to go up the elevator to the 55th floor. The elevator is black with floor-to-ceiling white lights. I feel like I’m going to a top secret dance club.

6:27pm: The doors open and a lady greets us in a poorly lit welcome room (black seems to be the colour scheme of choice here) and she takes us to our table. But first we walk through a long corridor which also happens to serve as the chilled wine room. Pretentious factor: 50%.

6:30pm: They take our jackets and seat us at our table which was wrapped in leather, and decorated with a ring of stones and some beach wood on top of flat circular slates of stone. I think we are going to have a small campfire on the table.

Vue de Monde place setting

– We take in the wonderful evening Melbourne skyline views. It is quite spectacular.

– Our server, which closely resembles Edna Mode, comes and places cloth napkins on our laps with mini tongs and asks us if we have any allergies. She then takes the beach wood and uses them as utensil rests. Pretentious factor: 80%

– Our complimentary “snacks” arrive. First was a small bowl of salt and vinegar chips and some dip. After we finished that, three duck tongue skewers showed up, then three oysters on the half shell, then three strips of wallaby cured on a salt rock was gingerly rolled up and placed in front of us on 3 of those rocks on the table, and finally three mini rolls of smoked eel with white chocolate and caviar. It seems that the campfire setting was our dinner place setting.

Vue de Monde salt cured wallaby

 (Salt cured wallaby)

– Edna returns to ask us how many courses would we like to have for the evening (to my surprise, our dinner hasn’t even started). We have the option to have 5 to 10 courses. I wanted all ten, but common sense (ie. Doran) suggested we should go with seven.

– Without even seeing what’s on the menu, our first course arrives.

– Not knowing what will come next is quite the experience.

Vue de Monde late breakfast

(Duck Yolk, Pear, Truffle)

 – Between courses 2 and 3, our palate cleansers came as individual bowls of flowers. But wait. Here comes the rest of it. Liquid nitrogen is pour into the bowl and we each use our own pestle to personally grind the fresh flowers into a powder. This was our base for a lovely cucumber sorbet. AMAZING! Pretentious factor: 100%

– Course 4 came as what I can only describe as an uprooted plant placed upside down in a pot. It turns out that there were three artichokes in amongst the roots that have been plucked from the earth earlier that day, cleaned and cooked for us. So fresh! Pretentious factor: 500%

– A pre-dessert of 3 strawberry sorbet lollipops was a nice surprise. Pre-desserts should be a thing for all restaurants.

– Doran went to the washroom, but got lost in the maze of glass, mirrors and darkness. Pretentious factor: 800%

8:15pm: Our seventh and final course was a cheese plate. However, by this time our table was needed for the next reservation so Edna returned to escort us to the bar to finish the meal.

– The cheese plate arrived and it was large enough to feed 5 people. So as we lay on two chaise lounge chairs slowly picking away at our cheese platter, we discuss how this evening has been quite an experience. Every moment was a gem. Full to the brim with food and satisfaction, we ask for the bill.

– But before the bill, we were given after dinner treats. An assortment of candies that included: 3 bourbon jelly marshmallows, 3 pieces of crackling pork rinds, 3 salted caramel shells and 3 cherry ice cream balls.

Vue de Monde candies

– We pay and leave, but before we get into the elevator, another lady comes up to us with a surprise take-away bag. Inside was breakfast items that we were told to enjoy in the morning. Pretentious factor: infinity. Does the food ever stop?

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So that was our evening and as we waddle home each with a full belly, Doran mentions that the water was 9 dollars per person. Pretentious factor: infinity + 999